She’s back! Drag Race favourite Jinkx Monsoon next month returns to the Midlands alongside her musician pal - and therapist - Major Scales. The duo will take to the stage to explore the dark side of drag fame. Midlands Zone recently caught up with Jinkx to find out what audiences can expect. Will the ginger finally snap? You’ll have to bag yourself a ticket to find out the answer to that one...
What would you say is your star quality?
To find humour in everything. I’ve always wanted to be a performer, so when I’m on stage performing in front of people, I feel like I come to life in a way that I don’t in any other realm of my life. I’m just very lucky because I do what I want.
What do you think sets you apart from other performers?
The extensive training and research I’ve done for the style of performance that I give. Being a cabaret performer, being a live stage performer, is very different from a lot of other mediums.
Our society is drifting away from live performance and going into internet content, movies and stuff, so you’ve gotta find something really special and hideous to put on stage to grab people’s attention away from their screens.
Can you tell us a bit about your new album with Major Scales?
Well, the album came out in January and it’s called The Ginger Snapped. If anyone’s followed my music, my first album was mostly show tunes and was really inspired by Bette Middler’s bad house days. After we’d accomplished that album, we wanted to explore a different style of music.
We both really like those ’90s grunge, garage bands, and we worked really hard on the new album. It’s mostly all original music by Major Scales and myself. It’s got a couple of covers, but it’s kinda got a vintage No Doubt sound to it. We took a lot of inspiration from female rock stars of the ’90s like Courtney Love, the bands Garbage, Portishead and, of course, early No Doubt. I’m really happy with it because it’s edgier than my first album and it’s got more pop and rock influences in it, but it’s our writing and sound.
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
It has to be Cartoons And Vodka, which is a song about just that.
My favourite line is, ‘Life is twice as hard when you’re living life half on a stage’. It’s all about what she wants in a man; it’s not someone who’s going to dote on her, or who’s going to require a lot from her. All she wants to do is come home and relax with cartoons and vodka.
Obviously you’re bringing the album to the stage and you say it’s based on personal experiences. Do you have any concerns about unveiling your vulnerability on stage?
No. The last two shows I’ve written were full-exposure, full in-depth looks into my personal life. I find it really rewarding because I’m able to turn some of my more embarrassing moments and some of my more harrowing experiences into entertainment.
With The Ginger Snapped tour, the premise is that Jinkx is seeing her pyschiatrist live on stage, and the music punctuates the psychotherapy session she’s having. It deals heavily with my sex life, and the darker side of being a drag superstar. The goal of the show is to de-stigmatise the idea of talking about your own mental illness and mental affliction - but even with that subject matter, it’s very lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek.
Can you provide an example of the dark side of being a superstar drag queen?
We tackle this a lot in our music and in a lot of the shows we do. One of the big things is living in a post-Drag Race phenomenon where the queens are making it big and becoming international superstars. I spend 80% of my year on the road touring, and it’s hard finding that balance of having my personal life and staying up to date with my friends and family.
Are there any benefits to doing your own shows as opposed to being in a bigger ensemble - such as Drag World, for instance?
I love doing big ensemble shows and always make time in my schedule to do a couple of tours with my drag sisters, because talking about the dark side of drag is always easier when you’re touring with other drag queens who know exactly what you’re going through. I’m really passionate about creating my own work, especially with Major Scales, because we pour so much of ourselves into our music and the scripts we write. It’s a really rewarding experience to create something from the ground up. Audiences are receptive to it and really enjoy it. I also get to go a little deeper. All my shows are tongue-in- cheek and not too heavy, but I always find a way to incorporate an under-lying message that I care about into the show.
You recently celebrated your 31st birthday. Do you really think your best years are behind you?
The way we tackle it in the show is Jinkx currently wondering if her best years are behind her, and it incites this on-stage mental breakdown which puts the whole show into motion - but I don’t actually feel that way.
At one point in my life, I thought Drag Race was my big break, but now my idea is very different. Breaks come in waves. You get multiple big breaks in life, and it’s all about moving from one big break to the next as positively, efficiently and confidently as possible.
How do audience reactions in the UK differ to those in the States?
Because I watched so much British comedy, the British sense of humour has been infused in me from a very young age. I learned so much about comedy from Absolutely Fabulous, Harry Enfield and Keeping Up Appearances. I think that had a strong influence on the way I write and perform, and my UK audiences get my jokes immediately. I don’t have to over-explain anything, which leaves me free to do more non-sequitur stuff and off-the-wall dry humour.
Jinkx Monsoon And Major Scales: The Ginger Snapped shows at Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Wednesday 7 November and then at Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday 17 November.
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